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Numbers 11:20

Numbers 11:20
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Numbers 11:20, “…you have rejected YHWH who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”

Notice the strong language that Moses uses to describe what we might consider a comparatively “innocent” situation. Some of the people have a “strong craving” for meat (v.4), and this apparently stirs up the majority of the people to bemoan their current situation and long for the “good old days” in Egypt. It is certainly fickle, it is certainly short sighted, it is certainly childish, but Moses—under the inspiration of the Spirit—evaluates the root issue as far more serious than any of these things; it is ultimately rejection of YHWH.

YHWH had brought the people out of Egypt with the express purpose of bringing them to Himself (Exodus 19:4). Therefore, their rejection of their current situation and their desire to return to Egypt is really a rejection of YHWH Himself and a desire to flee from Him back to the dead gods of the Nile.

Now, I think the New Testament would teach us to apply this same truth to all of life. As we read in Hebrews 13:5 —

“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

This is not merely a passage about money. Money is a means to get what we want, that is why the warning about loving money is followed up by a command to be content with what we have. The point is not that love of money is bad while love of new devices or of prestige or of a better house  or perfect job etc. is ok. Rather, the point is that we are to be—and become—a people unaffected by the cravings of the world around us (cravings for which money is the near-universal—albeit temporary—solution). In the face of a culture fueled by the discontentment of its people (what else is advertising but the seeding of discontentment in the mind and heart?), Christ followers are to be content with what they have.

Why? Because of some stoic indifference to pleasure? Because of some dualistic detachment from this world? No—because God in Christ by His Spirit has said to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We are to be content with what we have because HE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US. The implication of both Hebrews 13:5 and Numbers 11:20 is that discontentment with our situation is, ultimately discontentment with the sufficiency of God for us in Christ. It is, as we read in Numbers, tantamount to a “rejection” of the Lord. Whenever we say, “I will not be happy unless _____”—and if that blank is not filled with “more of God in Christ”—we are rejecting God, expressing discontentment with God, and in His place seeking a god of Egypt, as it were.

YHWH is the author of our stories (Ps.139:16), and—in Christ—He will never leave us nor forsake us within those stories (Heb.13:5). He is always and ever with us, at our right hand, the Good who invests all ours goods with good, and the one in whose presence is our fullness of joy (Ps.16). To be “content with what we have,” then, is not an exercise in asceticism, rather it is a call to know the pervasive presence of the God who loved us and gave Himself for our joy in Himself as the truly sufficient center of our existence.

On the other hand, to grumble, to complain, to pine away for what we do not have, to anchor our gladness to a yet-to-be-had good that is not God….this is rejection of YHWH as sufficient, rejection of Christ as our contentment, rejection of our God as enough, and—so long as it prevails—an embrace of idolatry.

Easy words to write, of course…easy words to write; but difficult to inhabit as a reality! May we, more and more, learn this “secret of being content,” may we know God in Christ, know the love of the beloved Son, know the fullness and excellence of all that God is for us—now and eternally—in Jesus crucified and risen, and may we be ever-increasingly content therein.